This interesting editorial by media union boss Chris Warren appears in the latest edition of The Walkley Magazine:

When Ginger Meggs moved from the Sunday Sun to The Sunday Telegraph back in 1951, about 80,000 readers moved with him. Now Ginger Meggs – one of the world’s longest running cartoon strips – is gone from The Sydney Morning Herald, which has joined The Age, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review newspapers in freeing itself from Australian comics.

Meggs may not have moved as many readers in 2005, despite being the most widely distributed cartoon in Australia. It’s part of a trend that readers are becoming inured to: Australia’s papers are relying more and more on low-cost syndicated material, almost all from the US.

It beggars belief that so many of Australia’s leading papers believe it’s ok to run exclusively foreign comics. They wouldn’t do it with features or news or any other part of the paper.

And, of course, television is prevented by law from this sort of foreign domination. This is changing the nature of Australian papers. We can only presume that it’s changing the nature of Australian humour.

It’s hard to believe that this is a question of quality. Given a choice, I’d back Ginger Meggs or Snake or Beyond the Black Stump over Hagar the Horrible or The Wizard of Id to raise a laugh just about any day.

Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily a question of cost. Too many Australian cartoonists are forced to compete at the rate that US strips syndicate for.

While we’re picking on Fairfax, it’s hard to go past its payment to Syd Nicholls for the all-time record of meanness. When he started drawing Fatty Finn for Fairfax in 1953, he received £25 an episode. When he died 24 years later, he was receiving $50.

Drowning under US imports, struggling on low rewards, it’s a tribute to Australia’s cartoonists that they keep doing what they’ve been doing and are still raising a laugh – when you can find their cartoons.